DENVER — Denver dominated Alabama-Huntsville en route to a 7-2 win Friday night in front of 4,475 at the Magness Arena.
Junior defenseman Ryan Caldwell and freshman forward Gabe Gauthier paced the Pioneers with two goals each, and J.J. Hartmann, Lukas Dora, and Greg Keith each added goals as the Pioneers outshot their visitors 41-18.
Coming in, Denver coach George Gwozdecky felt that improved play on special teams would be key for his team. “Our power play and penalty kill have not been up to what we expect and have struggled at times. We’ve worked on it this week. We’ve got some new personnel and taken some other personnel out. We’re hoping that starts to gain some consistency as the weekend goes along.”
As a result of that emphasis, the Pioneers were three-of-seven on the power play and limited the Chargers to just one power-play goal against five opportunities.
“There were a number of areas where we were better and sharper tonight,” Gwozdecky said. “It’s amazing what four good days of practice can do for you. Special teams was a big area for us tonight.”
Team speed and depth were key for the Pioneers. “[Alabama-Huntsville's] top two lines are pretty darn good, and their goaltender is really good. We felt that one area where we might be able to take advantage is with our depth, especially up front.
“We do have good speed up front. When we move the puck in transition, it makes us even faster. At times I thought we did a good job of that, and other times I didn’t. In our league, I think that one thing that we can take advantage of is that we have just a little more speed than other teams in our league. There’s no question that tonight we did a better job of going out and being physical and getting the puck.”
Huntsville coach Doug Ross had felt that keeping his team out of the penalty box would be a key for his team.
“We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box. I really want to emphasize that,” said Ross. Last time we came here, they scored most of their goals on power plays, and we didn’t score any on the power play.”
Denver shut out Huntsville 4-0 and 3-0 when the two teams played in January 2001.
Saturday could be a different game, Gwozdecky said. “Last weekend against Wisconsin, they knocked [the Badgers] off the puck quite a bit. They’re a big strong physical team, and they like to play that way.
“At times tonight, they were able to do that, but they weren’t able to do that very often. I figure tomorrow that they’re going to come up and try to slow us up, knock us off our stride, and we’ve got to be smart in how we defend that.”
The Pioneers host the Chargers again on Saturday night at 7:05 MT.